David Thompson
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May 19, 2015

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Mike

the naked cronyism and deep comedy of Australia’s taxpayer-funded art world

I couldn't stop laughing at the polystyrene cup. Then I read that the guy was given $60,000 of taxpayers' money.

David

I couldn’t stop laughing at the polystyrene cup. Then I read that the guy was given $60,000 of taxpayers’ money.

At some point I think they’re going to have to start tipping our earnings straight into the sea, or just set the cash on fire. It would save everyone a lot of time and inconvenience.

But no, I jest. Our own Arts Council is much more lofty, frugal and discriminating.

As we’ve seen.

Many times.

I mean, who could forget the triumph of the repeatedly insolvent £60 million West Bromwich Arts Centre, which promised to “make the arts more accessible” with things like this mighty feat of aesthetics, and which two years after opening had failed to attract a single paying customer.

Ben

Arthur Dent, throwing the Nutrimatic Cup

Patrick Brown

If someone accuses you of committing a microagression, it would seem appropriate to offer a microapology.

It's Newspeak. War is peace, freedom is slavery. Being "privileged" means you're not allowed to speak. "Safety" means making people scared to say what they think. "Diversity" means uniformity of opinion. "Empathy" means assuming anyone who disagrees with you is evil.

Ben

Yes, and "Humbled" means proud...

David

Speaking of microaggressions:

Students at Arizona State University are petitioning the college to drop the name of [pedestrianised] “walk-only” zones, claiming the word “walk” is both offensive and “ableist.”

David

If someone accuses you of committing a microaggression, it would seem appropriate to offer a microapology.

The standard dynamic of the “microaggression” police was noted here some years ago, following a claim that evidence and logic could be dispensed with if the person claiming to be aggrieved belongs to a Designated Victim Group, and that those outside said victim group “don’t have the perspective necessary” and should therefore have no opinion on whether a claim of grievance is credible or not:

And so any claim to moral agency is surrendered to those members of a favoured group who happen to be shouting loudest. But despite the howls of victimhood, it’s hard to excuse the opportunist denial of any objective criteria or coherent ethical rationale. Thus, injustice is defined, unilaterally, by feelings, or claims of feelings - and, of course, by leverage. Phobias, prejudice and oppression become whatever the Designated Victim Group, or its supposed representative, says they are. And the basis for apology, compensation and flattery becomes whatever the Designated Victim Group says it is. The practical result of this is egomaniacal license and the politics of role-play.

I can’t say things have improved in the years since that was written.

NielsR

Should I ever find myself accused of microaggression, I hope I have the wit to counter-accuse that they are triggering me.

Coin inserted.

R. Sherman

As I understand it, "triggering" means that someone is confronted with unpleasant memories by virtue of someone else's innocuous behavior or statement. The implication is that we are all somehow entitled to be exempt from vicissitudes of normal existence and the requirement that we learn from those unpleasantries and overcome them. My suggestion for such people? Try a lobotomy.

NielsR

@R Sherman,

right, the common theme with micro-aggressions being that the subjective experience of the 'victim' overrules any consideration for practical cooperation, reasonable expectations of politeness and charity, common sense, due process and generally not being a big baby.

The psychology seems remarkably resistant to any kind of rational argument, but may be vulnerable to catastrophic feedback loops. I think there's a video on here somewhere with a group trying to out-victim eachother, which at least seems to have kept them out of everyone else's hair for a while.

That probably should have carried a trigger warning for bald people, huh?

David

the common theme with micro-aggressions being that the subjective experience of the ‘victim’ overrules any consideration for practical cooperation, reasonable expectations of politeness and charity, common sense, due process and generally not being a big baby.

Yes, it tends to boil down to an implicit belief that members of a Designated Victim Group would never, ever exploit such unilateral leverage for unedifying reasons – say, vanity or petty malice - even though the leverage in question is an open invitation to precisely that kind of behaviour. And the people who believe that, or say they do, are either hopelessly naïve or hopelessly dishonest. Either way, they’re propagating a kind of moral idiocy. And it seems best to avoid such people and certainly to avoid ever being subject to their authority.

I think there’s a video on here somewhere with a group trying to out-victim each other.

Parts one and two, with a brief summary here.

If you can bear the mind-shattering shrillness of it all, it’s still quite funny, watching the competing victim narratives collide. Being equally oppressed, at least in their own minds, neither side will back down and so the drama escalates to a shrieking competition, where it remains for what feels like hours. As I said at the time, it’s really just a row over whose Rules of Pretending™ should prevail. And the students’ behaviour isn’t accidental; it’s what they’ve been taught.

NielsR

David, I'm not sure what's worse. The naivety in thinking such eminently exploitable leverage won't be (where will we find the next generation of lawyers, judges and legislators?), or the overarching sense of entitlement that argues that Designated Victims shouldn't have to deal with any form of confrontation or negativity.

Thanks for digging through your archive, those were the ones I was thing of. Desperate stuff.

David

Thanks for digging through your archive

I used the top search widget in the left hand column, typed in “howling lesbians” and – boom – there it was.

Joan

If I ever start a band I'm calling it The Howling Lesbians.

David

If you ever start a band called The Howling Lesbians I’ll expect a backstage pass and a roped-off VIP area.

NielsR

Ha!

Theophrastus

Jessica Valenti is fretting about "equity in cultural representation":

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/18/you-might-not-think-youre-a-sexist-until-you-take-a-look-at-your-bookshelf

R. Sherman

@Theo

So, Ms. Valenti believes that an absence of books authored by females from my library is a character flaw. I wonder if she'd say the same about herself if we found no works by Thomas Sowell or if we argued that the absence of Christian devotional books was evidence of some sort of moral delinquency?

neal

Books authored by females. I just need to see the pictures, thank you.
The camera never lies, mostly.

jabrwok

And here I thought the group trying to out-victim one another must've been this lot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAtSw3daGoo

Pity it wasn't:-(.

Theophrastus

RS:

Doubtless Ms Valenti would be pleased to find few (if any) male authors or Christian texts on this open-minded soul's bookshelf.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3087790/Student-diversity-officer-racism-row-lose-job-allegedly-tweeting-kill-white-men.html

R. Sherman

Theo:

The "Violent Anarchists For Communism" T-Shirt is a nice touch.

Theophrastus

RS

Indeed. I am amused by the rather incongruous scarlet lipstick and pout.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

What a ghastly spoiled little rich girl Mustafa is. (I'm assuming a 450,000 pound house is pretty darn expensive.) And so gifted in speech, attitude, intelligence, basic hygiene, and personal appearance. She'll probably qualify for an arts grant for her display, "Why I Hate White People, Yet Live in England Anyway."

Hal

which at least seems to have kept them out of everyone else's hair for a while.

That probably should have carried a trigger warning for bald people, huh?

A few years back at the paycheck there was some screwup that someone had staged. As I recall, while I noted the screwup as being rather idiotic, it didn't really affect the work I continued to do, but apparently some others claimed difficulties, so trying to discuss the idiocy wound up being a topic in a department meeting.

In that meeting, the not too bright woman trying to explain the screwup started her announcement with a description of the idiocy as being why we're all tearing our hair out.

At that point I cheerfully announced I'm not!

The woman Just Stared . . . . tried to sort out how to continue, was left completely without words . . . and finally someone else in the department cheerfully suggested to her Don't go there!

The woman finally blurted out But he already did!!!!

Matt

Hey David, thought you might like a satire piece that features this sentence:
"The first is the kind you get from a book, an experiment, an archaeological dig, peer-reviewed research, independently verified accounts, or a priori reasoning. That’s all Van de Mieroop has to draw from when he talks about [ancient] Egypt.But that doesn’t even touch the value and integrity of the knowledge we gain from living our lives and occupying intersectional identificational spaces. What more objective account of the world can there possibly be than the one constructed from your (my, in this case) personal experience? Of course, personal experiences are not all equal, particularly those clouded by Dutch privilege."

http://columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2015/03/02/step-back-professor-marc-van-de-mieroop

Matt

Ooops, I should say "these sentences" but i was not going to post that much initially

R. Sherman

Matt:

Marvelous stuff! I particularly enjoyed this:

Why put my [Egyptian] ancestors under a microscope of oppression when there are plenty of white people things for [Columbia University History Professor] Van de Mieroop to excavate? Perhaps he can grab a spade, go to a trailer park, and dig up a copy of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" on DVD.

Col. Milquetoast

Blair gives the wrong impression that this guy is financial wizard who turned $20,000 into $21,350.

Before any of your readers run out and try to sell their piles of money for a profit please note that : the buyer paid more than the face value of the cash, the seller got less than face value, the auction house took $3850, and the taxpayers got screwed.

Vince N

When they accuse you of "micro-aggression", what they mean is, "Nothing is so trivial that we won't try to paint it as racist."

Jack

"They have pandered to the politically correct, and now are embarrassed at what the politically correct have done."

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/207173/

David

“They have pandered to the politically correct, and now are embarrassed at what the politically correct have done.”

But the mouthed banalities of a far-left thug and murderer, whose associates bombed a church in an attempt to kill random mourners, are there to inspire the kids and give ‘em something to aim for.

It’s also worth mulling how unlikely it is that those responsible will be expected to attend “sensitivity training” for their bizarre choice of heroine. I mean, theoretically, there could be students who have relatives who’ve been murdered or maimed by far-left thugs, and who could, theoretically, have been “triggered” by the witless celebration of a wanted murderer.

David

the seller got less than face value, the auction house took $3850, and the taxpayers got screwed.

As Franklin has noted several times, artistic lefties are not generally good with numbers. Or economics. Or politics of an adult nature. Though in the case above I suppose the point was to attract attention, or at least notoriety, in a way that required little talent or effort, using money that other people, less artistic people, had to actually earn.

One of the things I spotted in the Tim Blair post on taxpayer-funded art was this gem by the Guardian’s Van Badham:

The policy of artistic silencing has already begun.

Apparently, any attempt to curb opportunist freeloading is an act of silencing, of censorship. The vanity is extraordinary. But we’ve heard much the same self-flattering shite from our own artistic giants. In fact, it’s eerily similar. It’s as if there’s some kind of handbook for pretention and dishonesty.

The clueless Ms Badham goes on to say,

In a free and fair society, there exists the necessity for a culture to express itself – and experiment with that expression – without the interference of the state.

At which point, Tim points out a detail that Ms Badham has somehow managed to overlook, i.e., that the grant money itself is state interference.

ACTOldFart

David, you should keep an eye, through Tim Blair or otherwise, on the contributions of our very own Ms Badham. She is Australia's response to Laurie Penny, perhaps not as obnoxious but easily just as loopy. She could prove a rich lode of arrant absurdities for your columns and threads.

David

She is Australia’s response to Laurie Penny, perhaps not as obnoxious but easily just as loopy.

Well, it takes a certain denseness or contrarianism to not register the fact that organisations like the Arts Council and Australia Council skew the culture, by promoting and lending seriousness to a great deal of art, or pseudo-art, in which the public, the supposed patrons, have practically zero interest. The result of which is an art world, a supposed reflection of our tastes, that bears little relation to what the general public actually likes and finds valuable. As Sam Duncan put it, it’s “a cargo culture… not our culture at all, spontaneously emerging through voluntary action, [but] someone else’s, laid on the top of our real civilisation.”

And if Ms Badham is genuinely concerned about “the interference of the state,” the most obvious and immediate way to stop government “interference” in contemporary art is to get government out of its funding altogether. Maybe the public, not the state, should be the arbiters of what’s worth the price of a ticket. But perhaps that’s too radical for our terribly radical artists.

Tim Newman

Students at Arizona State University are petitioning the college to drop the name of [pedestrianised] “walk-only” zones

Any city where the public are so dense that the word "pedestrianised" needs to be replaced with "walk-only" deserves whatever comes its way.

Hal

Any city where the public are so dense that the word "pedestrianised" needs to be replaced with "walk-only" deserves whatever comes its way.

Err, no.

Any city where the public are so dense that the word "pedestrianised" needs to be deserves whatever comes its way.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

Yeah...that keeping the "state" out of arts, whilst accepting $$ from the state, is like...I'm old enough to remember that keeping the government out of "our uterus" was the big statement from abortion enthusiasts. Now it's "Give us $$ for our abortions, government!!!" Say what?

Stan

What a bunch of amateurs!
About 15 years ago a Mexican 'artist' in Banff Alberta received 4 grand to hang vials of his semen in a tree.

Yes Virginia, he was paid to jerk off.
By you and me.

Why if I had a nickel for every time.....nice work if you can get it...etc etc

David

Yeah...that keeping the “state” out of arts, whilst accepting $$ from the state, is like...

It’s quite odd when the beneficiaries of cronyism talk about democracy and “our collective culture,” generally while thinking up excuses for why the rest of us should have more of our earnings confiscated to fund their unviable lifestyles. But it’s hard to see much of what they produce as being in any sense ours, other than the fact we’re all being forced to pay for it, as if we found what they do valuable.

When faced with the kind of feeble conceptual drek that the Arts Council loves to bankroll despite almost zero public interest – things like this, for instance - almost all of the people I know - my family, friends, neighbours – almost all of them would find such things ridiculous and contemptible. I doubt they’d appreciate the claim that such half-arsed tat was representative of their values and standards.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

David, the thing at that 3rd link is so...stupid and cynical and hypocritical and...find me a modern artist to slap forcefully, please. Dammit!

MsDolittle

I couldn't stop laughing at the polystyrene cup.

Yep, takes me back to my early teens when I found the trigger noise of a Windex bottle très amusant.

David

the thing at that 3rd link is so...stupid and cynical and hypocritical

Yes, it stinks of hollowness, vanity and cynical exhaustion. And the traffic stats for the exhibition videos linked in the piece are a plausible yardstick of public interest. If you subtract the traffic sent from this blog and assume the videos have been watched once by each artist and by maybe one friend of each artist, then the level of public interest was practically zero. It seems the videos, like the exhibition, didn’t exactly seize the public’s imagination. And remember, the project involved around 70 artists and curators, many of whom are alleged giants in the field, all bankrolled by the taxpayer. That it took so many people to attract so little interest rather defeats the exhibition’s stated premise, or indeed the term ‘exhibition’. And yet we’re told the work was “critically acclaimed.”

See also this.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

So I was looking up the name Dickens gave Charles Lamb (Skimpole) to write something about how these artists are a bunch of lazy scammers (except that "Skimpole"/Lamb had talent), when I was struck (again) by how much Dickens produced, and how his extensive work actually gave his readers pleasure and ideas. Then I thought that the people who give these crap contemporary lazy artists are a mix of Mrs Nickleby, who has the worst judgment of all time, and the Veneerings and Mr Podsnap, arrogant pompous social climbers. Then I thought we could all do better by defunding our present-day "cultural betters" and reading a Dickens book, written by a guy who rose out of poverty and into fame and fortune by giving the public actual art that is actually fun to read, and didn't go picking the people's pockets and sneering whilst doing so.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

Give these crap contemporary artists OUR MONEY, I mean.

David

picking the people’s pockets and sneering whilst doing so.

Ah, but the sneering is important. One has to signal one’s elevation above mere commerce, i.e., the public’s preferences. As when Ms Vestergaard, linked above, denounced “the choking effects of the market.” By which she means the expectation that one should make some effort to please the people currently being shafted and left with the bill. That’s what she finds choking and unendurable.

After all, the word “market” implies a reciprocal relationship – a voluntary exchange – and we can’t have that. What Ms Vestergaard wants, and what so many of her peers want, and of course get, is a non-reciprocal relationship - specifically, a parasitic arrangement, in which the taxpayer foots the bill but has no say whatsoever and is essentially irrelevant. That kind of arrangement is much more liberating.

Henry

I think we spoke before about Bahar Mustafa, the gender-studies student and Goldsmith University diversity officer who said she'd rather not have white men at some (crushingly important) event.

I don't know if we've had the follow up here. Was she stripped of her position? Apparently no. She brazenly defended herself thus - besically rehashing the popular, spiteful and divisive canard that racism & sexism are not things that white males can experience. - bringing this typically candid response from Sargon of Akkad (one of those characters on Youtube)

David

Bahar Mustafa, the gender-studies student and Goldsmith University diversity officer

What’s dismaying (or hilarious, depending on mood) is just how many such people are being churned out by academia’s Clown Quarter. People who imagine themselves as our superiors, as intellectual titans, but who’ve in fact been rendered credulous and obstinately dense, impervious to facts and basic logic. Or as Sargon of Akkad puts it, “really, really fucking stupid.”

Tim Newman

I'm assuming a 450,000 pound house is pretty darn expensive.

Yes, that ought to get you a cupboard under the stairs in a tumbledown house in London's Zone 6.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

Oh, my, David, that podcast is HILAR!

David

Oh, my, David, that podcast is HILAR!

Totes HILAR, as I believe the cool kids say. More on that here.

Stuart Lord

More on the cup - Ben Eltham in defense of the polystyrene cup.
http://beneltham.info/that-time-tim-blair-appeared-at-my-arts-festival/

"The first one is Song: the story of a girl, a bird and a teapot. It’s a one-woman show by Waiata Telfer. The show has toured nationally and will be presented in 2015 by the Brisbane Powerhouse.

I’m sure Blair doesn’t care about any of this, but Waiata Telfer is an artist of real craft who has a considerable track record. Telfer has worked at SBS TV and the Adelaide Festival. In 1998 she won a fellowship to write and direct her own short film. She has performed at the London International Festival of Theatre and has won prizes, including the South Australian NAIDOC 2003 artist of the year. Song was developed with the help of Sue Rider, one of Australia’s better known stage directors, a multi-award winner who was director of La Boite for eight years in the 1990s."

She may have a track record, but its a stupid exhibit and unworthy of my and other taxpayers money. The work should be judged on its (lack of) merits, not on the back of their previous work of unknown worth.

"I’m wagering Tim Blair knows none of this. He doesn’t even appear to know the name of the show (it doesn’t appear in his blog post, which Andrew Bolt has reposted).

Tim Blair has failed to discover the name of the show. He can’t even tell us the name of the artist. He doesn’t know even elementary details about her background. "

Seeing a crap piece of art doesn't require me to know the background of the artist, their dog or their favourite handbag to know that it's not worth the polystyrene its made of.

"I would have thought you’d need to know that kind of thing if you wanted to ridicule someone’s work in a national newspaper."

Nope.It's that bad that context is unnecessary. The end.

"Does Waiata Telfer deserve such ridicule? No, of course she doesn’t..."

Yes, yes she does. Otherwise how will she and others learn that this stuff isn't worth a taxpayers dollar, let alone thousands of them?

"

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